How To Tell If Firewood Is Wet Or Dry

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It may come as no surprise, but firewood doesn't burn well if wet. So, it's important to make sure firewood is nice and dry prior to burning it. But how do you tell if your firewood is wet or dry? Let's take a look at some ways you can check.

Here are ways to tell if your firewood is wet:

  • Sound test
  • Check the weight
  • Difficulty of bark
  • Color
  • Feel
  • Observe how it burns
  • Use a moisture meter

As you can see, there are quick ways to check if your wood is too wet to burn. In this article, we will explain each way in detail so that you can make a judgment for yourself the next time you buy, collect, or chop firewood. In addition, we will answer other frequently asked questions about firewood, so let's get to it!

A Stack of firewoods, How To Tell If Firewood Is Wet Or Dry

How To Know If FIrewood Is Too Wet To Burn

Whether camping or collecting firewood for your cabin or home, you want to ensure that your wood is dry before burning. If the wood is too wet, it will not burn well and will cause problems for you and your equipment.

In addition, you might have a cold night camping if you can't get your fire going, or you could damage your home's chimney if you try to burn wet wood.

But how do you know if the wood is too wet? We have listed out simple ways that you can use to test if your wood is dry enough to burn.

Preparation of firewood for the winter

Sound Test

One of the quickest ways to tell if your wood is too wet is by doing a sound test. Simply knock two pieces of wood together and listen for a hollow sound. If the wood makes a dull thud, it means that the wood is too wet to burn.

Check The Weight

Next, you can check the weight of the wood. If the wood is too wet, it will be much heavier than dry wood. This is because water weighs more than dry air, so when water saturates the cells of the wood, it becomes heavier.

To test this, lift a piece of firewood in each hand. If one feels significantly heavier, it is likely too wet to burn. Wet would also have uneven weight distribution.

Difficulty of Bark

Firewood that is ready to burn will have bark that peels off easily. However, if the bark is hard to remove or flakes in small pieces, it is likely too wet to burn.

Color

Dry firewood will be lighter in color than wet wood. This is because wet wood will also have darker end grain, while dry wood will have a lighter end grain.

Feel

Wet firewood will feel, well, wet! It will be spongy and damp to the touch, while dry wood will feel dry and crispy.

Observe How It Burns

If you already have a fire going, you can test the moisture content of your firewood by throwing a piece of wood on the fire. When the wood hisses, pops, and cracks, it is dry enough to burn. If it smokes and sizzles, it is too wet to burn.

Use A Moisture Meter

Lastly, if you have a moisture meter, you can test the moisture content of your firewood. Most moisture meters will have a range from 0-100%. The wood is dry enough to burn if the number is below 20%. The wood is too wet to burn if the number is above 30%.

Seasoned firewood usually won't drop below 10%, so it's normal for there to be some moisture in the wood.

Now that we've gone over how to tell if your firewood is too wet to burn, let's answer some frequently asked questions about firewood.

Measure moisture in firewood

How Long Does It Take For Firewood To Season?

Firewood usually takes 6-12 months to properly season or dry out. The type of wood, the thickness of the logs, and weather conditions will all affect how long it takes for the wood to season.

In general, hardwoods like oak and hickory will take longer to the season than softwoods like pine and cedar. This is because hardwoods have a higher density, meaning they have more water trapped in the wood cells.

Thicker logs will also take longer to the season than thinner logs because there is more surface area for the water to evaporate from.

Finally, hot and dry weather will help speed up the seasoning process, while cold and wet weather will slow it down. Therefore, it's important to time your firewood harvesting with the weather so you can be sure that your wood will dry when needed.

What Are Ways To Season Firewood Faster?

After you have cut your wood, you can do a few things to help it dry out faster.

Split The Wood

The first thing you should do is split the wood. This will help expose more of the wood's surface area, allowing the water to evaporate more quickly.

You can split the wood by hand with an ax or log splitter. If you don't have either of these tools, you can hire someone to do it for you.

Stack The Wood Properly

Once the wood is split, you need to stack it properly so it can dry out evenly. The best way to do this is to create a crisscross stack with the logs resting on each other.

To do this, start with a single row of logs. Then, stack another row of logs on top of the first row, but offset the logs horizontal so that they are resting on top of the cracks between the logs in the first row.

Doing this will allow more airflow to circulate the logs, which will help them dry out evenly.

Dry It Outside

Outside is the best place to dry your wood because it will be exposed to the most sunlight and wind. However, putting your wood in a shed or garage will prolong drying because these areas are usually dark and humid.

Be Selective When Covering

Having your firewood uncovered is the best way to dry it out, but you may need to cover it at times to protect it from the rain or snow. If you need to cover your wood, be selective about when and how you do it.

For example, during the spring and winter, you will want to cover your wood during the day to protect it from the rain. On the other hand, during your dry season, you should cover your wood at night to protect it from the dew.

Cover With A Roof Instead Of A Tarp

If you can, it's best to cover your wood with a roof instead of a tarp. This will allow air to circulate while protecting the wood from the elements.

You can use a tarp if you need to, but ensure that you secure it tightly so that air can't get under it. Also, remove the tarp during the day so that sunlight can reach the wood.

What Is The Best Type Of Firewood?

Hardwoods such as oak, hickory, and maple are the best type of firewood because they burn hot and slow. This means they will last longer and produce more heat than softwoods like pine and cedar.

Hardwoods also create less smoke than softwoods, which are better for the environment. If you can't find hardwood firewood, the next best option is softwood that has been properly seasoned.

burning firewood in the fireplace

How Do You Reduce Moisture Content In Firewood?

If your firewood has a high moisture content, it will be difficult to ignite and produce a lot of smoke. To reduce the moisture content in your firewood, you need to split it and stack it properly so it can dry out evenly.

You can also dry your wood in a kiln, a chamber that uses heat and airflow to remove moisture from the wood. However, kiln-dried wood is more expensive than air-dried wood.

Can Seasoned Firewood Get Wet?

Even if your firewood is seasoned correctly, it can still get wet if it is not stored properly. Keeping it away from the wet elements will prolong the life and quality of your firewood.

However, if your seasoned firewood gets wet, it will dry out within a few days. But if you live in a region with frequent rain, it's best to keep your firewood under a roof.

How Can You Start A Fire In The Rain?

If you are a frequent camper or live in an area where it rains often, you need to know how to start a fire in the rain. The best way to do this is to use a waterproof fire starter.

To prepare for rain, it is essential to collect your firewood right after you set up your shelter. This way, you can keep your wood dry and close to your shelter. Having a waterproof tarp or some other form of rain protection for your woodpile is also a good idea.

Don't put it on the ground, especially if it is wet. Instead, put it on a log, some rocks, or anything else that will keep it off the ground and help it drain.

A child collects firewood in the forest

Final Thoughts

A Stack of firewoods

As you can see, firewood is only as good as how it is cut, split, stacked, and covered. Seasoning your wood correctly will ensure good-quality firewood that will last longer and produce little smoke.

Now that you know how to season your firewood correctly, it's time to get out there and enjoy your campfires!

Made it to the end? Here are other articles you might enjoy:

Does Juniper Wood Burn Well And Can You Use It For Firewood?

Can Firewood Be Too Old To Burn?

How To Start A Fire In A Fireplace Without Kindling?

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